Monday, December 18, 2023

My Memory of the War in Iraq 20 years later: December 2023

 “From: Whitehead, Michael (USA)

Sent: Friday, December 05, 2003 7:39 AM

Subject: Hail and farewell

    The staff here continues the normal Army custom of a Hail and Farewell evening. The room normally fills up on Saturday and Sunday night for football games. They get a cake for a birthday, some wings and pizza chips for a farewell. We even had a promotion there the other day. This week Air Force Sergeant Vanessa Kidby got fare welled. She had been here four months, and was rotating home. The Air Force takes care of their people, she confided to me. Vanessa has a husband and two small children waiting for her. She deserves to leave. Nevertheless, her farewell depressed me. She was leaving after four months: I had four months to go – but I had already been here for eight months.

Myself and my friend Colonel Bede Strong, from Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, at a Hail and Farewell.

    The view from my foxhole is that we are doing what needs to be done right now. Everyone is on board with what the President and Amb. Bremer have decided to do. There isn't much second guessing here about our future course. As for past actions: several critical mistakes were made and one fundamental one. The fundamental mistake, and I blame the Bush Administration at the highest level for this one, was failing to recognize up front that we would be an occupying power. This was obvious to me when I first saw the plan in November 2002 but no where did I see the kind of detailed planning required to execute such an awesome and unprecedented task as occupying a large Arab country. 

Myself and a crowd listening to President Bush announce the capture of Saddam Hussein.

    During all the frantic planning before the war we (the Civil Affairs people) were screaming for answers to fundamental questions. Plenty of plans and annexes and appendices were written, but the critical questions were not answered. And the reason for this failure is that the political decision directing the military to prepare (in earnest) to occupy the country never came. And what is infuriating is that we have made this same mistake so many times before. We do a great job of planning for and executing the war and a miserable job of dealing with the aftermath.”

Excerpt From

Messages from Babylon

Michael Whitehead

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